Monday, June 29, 2009

Do We Need The 10 Commandments?

CybeRanger alerted me to a blog post by Rev Kong Hee entitled "Do We Need The 10 Commandments?", and I posted a comment there and got a reply from Roy Jr whom I in turn replied. I shall share the exchange with you here but first let me say that I am thankful that Rev Kong Hee has confirmed something which I know deep in my heart but of which I did not have proof.

In my article "Questionable 'Questionable Teachings' #2-Part 1" which addresses the QT of "Being Taught The 10 Commandments Is Like Taking Poison!", I said the following:

I agree with Rev Kong Hee that the Law is not just the 10 commandments and consists of three portions which we have conveniently categorized as civil,ceremonial and moral BUT I disagree that these portions can be individually separated and replaced. There is only ONE LAW and ONE COVENANT and either the WHOLE LAW applies or it doesn't. We, mere man, are the ones who divided the Law into 3 portions, not God.

Rev Kong Hee has kindly, perhaps unwittingly, confirmed for me that it is "We, mere man, are the ones who divided the Law into 3 portions, not God." In his post, Rev Kong Hee wrote the following:

The law consists of various parts. The most important portion is the Ten Commandments, also known as the “moral law,” as they express the morality, values and character of God. The commandments were engraved on stone tablets and are recorded in Exodus 20: 2-17 and Deuteronomy 5: 6-21. Because there are ten of them, they are also commonly called the “Decalogue” (Gr. dekalogos), which means the “ten words” or “ten pronouncements.”

Apart from these commandments, God gave Moses further instructions that governed the ethics and rituals of the Israelites. Augustine (354-430) divided the law of Moses into two parts: the moral and symbolical. For example, “you shall not covet” is a moral law; “you shall circumcise every male on the eighth day” is a symbolical law. To Augustine and the early Church fathers, the moral law of the Ten Commandments is still binding while the symbolical law is no longer binding. Besides circumcision and the sacrifices, Augustine categorizes as symbolical law the tabernacle regulations, the dietary laws, the feasts, etc. Because they are non-binding, he interprets the rules against blended clothing (wool and linen) and the mixed yoke (ox and ass) allegorically.

As always, Scripture must be compared with Scripture to avoid misinterpretation. It is clear that Jesus brought to an end the observance of the symbolical laws by His redemptive accomplishment. The entire sacrificial system and ceremonial washings were “external regulations applying until the time of the new order” (Heb. 9:10). These symbolical or topological law was “only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves” (Heb. 10:1), its regulations were set aside once the realities had arrived in Christ (Heb. 7:18-19, 22). Jesus ushered in the new order that made the ceremonial rituals redundant: “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Heb. 8:13).

This moral/symbolical distinction eventually gave way to the more precise three-part analysis first worked out in detail by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274). Aquinas says that the law of Moses is made up of moral, ceremonial and civil precepts. From the days of Aquinas to the Reformation, to our time, the Church has been consistent in teaching that only the moral law is still binding, all ceremonial and civil laws are no longer applicable to believers.

(emphasis in bold mine)

I shall now share my exchange with Roy Jr below and welcome comments from all of you:


I am not a theologian but I am just wondering, did any of those eleven historical church documents listed in the article explain how Rom 6:14 - “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” - fits in with obeying the 10 commandments?

Did those historical documents explain why the 10 commandments, which were “written and engraved on stones”, were called “the ministry of death” by Paul in 2 Cor 3:7?

Roy Jr:

@ Stanley Wong

quote: “Rom 6:14 - “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” - fits in with obeying the 10 commandments?”

You are completely taking this verse out of its intended context. Paul is speaking in this chapter to antinomians, licentious people who consider that the law is not necessary. Let’s read a little bit of this chapter.

Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? Certainly not! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

Here, Paul candidly mentions that sinning is simply NOT one of the things God wants us to do. What is sinning, breaking a law of the Ten Commandments!

Romans 6:18″ You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

The above verse proceeds the verse you attempted to use to defend your argument. In the original context, to be a “slave to righteousness” is to be an individual that adheres to the laws that God has set in one’s life. The paradox of being a slave to righteousness, is that you are also liberated from your slavery to sin. God’s grace does, indeed, exist, and is indeed great, however, without following the laws of our God, it is impossible to be a “slave of righteousness” as Paul succinctly calls us to become.


Dear Roy Jr,

You said “In the original context, to be a “slave to righteousness” is to be an individual that adheres to the laws that God has set in one’s life.”

To REALLY put a “slave to righteousness” in the PROPER CONTEXT, let’s take a look at what Paul says about righteousness in the book of Romans:

Romans 1:16-17 (NKJV)
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from FAITH to FAITH; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (emphasis in caps mine)

Romans 3:21-22 (NKJV)
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through FAITH in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. (emphasis in caps mine)

Romans 4:8-9 (NKJV)
8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”
9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that FAITH was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. (emphasis in caps mine)

Romans 9:30-31 (NKJV)
30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. (emphasis in caps mine)

It is obvious from the above verses in Romans that Paul was preaching about a righteousness that is by faith and NOT by adhering “to the laws that God has set in one’s life”.

Therefore Paul was saying in Rom 6:18 that we have become slaves to “righteousness of faith”, and no longer need to pursue “the law of righteousness”, which explains why Paul said in Rom 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are NOT UNDER LAW but under grace.” (emphasis in caps mine)

By the way, what about the question of Paul calling the 10 commandments “the ministry of death”?


Kat said...

Romans 5:17 clearly says "For if because of one man's trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God's] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).(th Amplified Bible)

How do we explain this verse which explicitly says that righteousness is a GIFT. If it is a gift, it means we cannot do anything to earn it, and it is regardless of whether we follow God's laws or not.

Hando Ferreira said...

Hi again, Stanley
Can I just say again how much I enjoy this blog. I would like to add this. The first Adam had no law. He lived out of daily fellowship with God. The very basis of his temptation was to live out of his understanding,"if you eat of the fruit, you shall become like Him." Humanity is told in effect that God is lying to them and that humanity living in relationship with God is not good and pleasing. It is only when humanity lives out of their understanding of good and bad that they can become "like God". God's response to this is to ask us"Where are you?" Where have we moved in relation to Him, why have we disbelieved Him? The entire purpose of the Law is to teach us that we can never please God by living out of our understanding of what is good and bad,The Law. When we embrace relationship with God as modeled by Jesus as the only basis for life, when we trust God's love more than our ability to please Him, we are empowered by the source of all life and we will find that we accidentally fulfill the law.

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Hando,
I'm glad that you enjoy this blog :-) Yes, the essence of the Law is LOVE ... Romans 13:9-10 " The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. "

Angie said...

Great post!!! :D

When I was reading the entire thread at the orginal site given by Cyberanger, I was appalled by what Roy Jr said about "however, without following the laws of our God, it is impossible to be a “slave of righteousness” as Paul succinctly calls us to become."

Earlier while typing my entry, I was thinking about the difference between self righteousness & self sufficiency. Somehow I felt there's a fine line differentiating the two but couldn't put a finger to it.

I may be wrong but I think self righteousness are law based believers who think they can 'attain' righteousness through following the law while works of the flesh/ self sufficiency are grace based believers who knows they have attained righteousness (thru Christ) and want to help God 'maintain' it :p yes i speak for this fool who was previously misguided ;p

Spunk said...

"By the way, what about the question of Paul calling the 10 commandments “the ministry of death”?"

Because of Jesus, whoever believe in Him will have eternal life. So from that point in time, those who chose to keep the Laws and not accept Jesus will not be part of God's Kingdom.

Crudely speaking, the Christians will have have a place in the Kingdom of God while the same cannot be said of the Jews.

Just my 2cents

Another Mouse